26 June 2008

Hang 'em high

Ok, this is McFarland State Historic Park in Florence, a town that prides itself in its "Old West" feel, and architecture, unchanged since the days that miners and cowboys roamed the streets. While Esteban Ramirez laid the first claim in the area in 1866, the town got its real begining in 1873 when the land office was established. The town's central location made it the ideal location for the seat of the newly formed Pinal County in 1875, the same year a major silver mine was discovered in the nearby mountains. In 1909 the Arizona Territorial Prison was moved from Yuma to Florence, and still exists today. The town thrived on a system of irrigation, like the Hohokam Indians who lived in the area before.
The State Park is located in the old Courthouse, built in 1878, now the oldest standing courthouse in the state. Pay attention East Coasters: This is a historic site and museum where you can take PICTURES. This is how things should be. "The local "Vigilance Committee" stormed the sheriff's office in this building in 1888, dragged two men from their cells and hanged them in the corridor of the jail. Those two had been charged with holding up a stage and killing Johnny Collins, the guard. A coroner's jury later found that the two prisoners had met their deaths "at the hands of parties unknown." A short time later, the same "vigilance" group attempted to lynch four other prisoners under the same circumstances but were thwarted in their efforts when Michael Rice, the jailer, armed the prisoners, took them upstairs and faced down the mob from the windows above the street." From the State Park website.

When a new courthouse was built in 1891, the old courthouse was converted into a county hospital, recreated by this portion of the building.

Medical supplies
A vacuum pressure pump
Some pieces from historic buildings around Florence
In 1943 a POW camp was established just north of Florence for German and Italian prisoners. The site is now a retirement community. Seen here are an Italian bottle and German helmet.
Artifacts from the Italian camp
Piece of wood with pencil drawings found in the camp.
The courtyard of the courthouse, where the original, small jail was located. Damage due to weathering can be seen on the right side. A combination of moisture and the concrete porches (added during the building's days as a hospital) has been cracking the building's adobe walls. In 1938, the building became a welfare and public health center, and later, in 1963, the Pinal County Historical Society acquired and maintained the building as a museum until 1970.

Ernest McFarland was born october 9, 1894 in Earlsboro, Oklahoma, and graduated the University of Oklahoma in 1917. In WW1 he was in the US Navy, until he suffered from a bronchial infection, when he moved to Phoenix, AZ. After saving enough money, he attended Stanford University, graduating in 1921, when he began law practice in Casa Grande (near Florence.) He became assistant attorney general of AZ from 1923 to 1924, Pinal county attorney from 1925 to 1930, and superior court judge from 1934 to 1940, when he was elected to the US Senate. He is probably best known as the "Father of the GI Bill", working diligently to get the bill passed in 1944.In 1952 he was defeated in the Senate, and in 1954 became Arizona State Governor. Leaving the office in 1958, he returned to his law practice until being elected associate justice of the Arizona Supreme Court in 1964, and serving as Chief Justice from 1968 to 1970. In 1974, former governor Ernest W. McFarland purchased the building and donated it to the Arizona State Parks Board for a historic park. He died in Phoenix on June 8, 1984, the only Arizonan to have served in all three branches of government.
Various artifacts from his personal collection, above and below.

His pet Gila Monster, Mussolini

Front outside of the courthouse
The Silver King Motel, opened in 1876 and named for the Silver King mine. The current building was built in 1893 after the original burned down.
A mostly deteriorated adobe structure behind the Motel, possibly an old addition.
Main street Florence, Arizona

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